Scarlet Fever in Children – Symptoms, Cause, Treatment & Prevention

Scarlet fever is one of the six most common infections that affect children of between 5-10 years even though it can also affect adults. The other five are Measles, Rubella (German measles), Duke’s Disease, fifth and sixth disease. Occurrence of scarlet fever is most common in children who develop either sore throat or skin infection caused by streptococcal bacteria.

This fever associated with the infection usually subsides within three or five days with the sore throat fading away a day or two afterwards. Spread of the fever is mainly through inhalation although it can also be spread through skin contact with an infected child.


The main symptom of scarlet fever is a distinct rash that appears on a child’s neck, face or around the mouth. The rash can be itchy and is in form of tiny bumps. The rash eventually spreads from the initial point to such other parts of the body as elbows and under the arms. Other accompanying symptoms do include sore throat, high fever, reddish tongue, swollen glands including tonsils.


Scarlet fever is caused by streptococcus bacteria, the bacteria responsible for causing sore throat and skin infection. The bacteria produce a toxic substance that causes the associated rash. However, not all bacteria in this group produce the toxic substance. Similarly, different children respond differently to the toxic substance. While some children are not affected, others get affected and develop the rash and the other symptoms.


Treating scarlet fever requires correct diagnosis that eliminates other bacterial infections that present similar symptoms. Physicians normally recommend blood tests aimed at establishing level of white blood cells. Scarlet fever infection normally leads to increased level of white blood cells.

It is only after establishing scarlet fever infection that a physician can prescribe appropriate antibiotic medications.

It is very important that scarlet fever is diagnosed correctly and appropriate antibiotic medications given. This is because the possible long-term complications that can arise as a result of infection.
Possible complications can arise because the bacterium is transported throughout the body by blood. This can easily lead to long-term rheumatic fever, septic ear, nose and throat infections, kidney infection and angina among other health problems.


Although scarlet fever is treated using antibiotic medications, physicians recommend prevention at all costs. This is because exposing children to use of antibiotic medications from that tender age can easily lead to drug resistance.

There is really no vaccine for prevention of scarlet fever. The only effective prevention is through maintaining high level of hygiene through washing of hands and non-sharing of personal effects.

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